MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Once recruited by Kansas State, Sean McNeil showcased why the Wildcats wanted him by coming up strong again for West Virginia.
McNeil scored 16 points and No. 10 West Virginia used two big runs in the second half to beat Kansas State 65-43 on Saturday.
“I think it was a tough shooting night for all of us all down the board,” McNeil said. “At halftime, we talked, made some adjustments and figured out who we were really going to be. We came out in the second half and kind of showed that.
"I think we picked our defensive intensity up and that kind of led to some easy buckets.”
McNeil is shooting 29 of 54 (54%) from the floor over his last five games, including 18 of 35 (51%) from 3-point range. McNeil has improved his scoring average from 5.5 last year to 11.7 this season.
“We tried recruiting him. But of course he chose closer to home," Kansas State coach Bruce Webber said. “His improvement from last year to this year, but even during this year is astronomical. He’s got that pure jump shot.”
The Mountaineers (17-6, 10-4 Big 12) have won six of their last seven, including wins over No. 18 Texas Tech, No. 14 Texas and No. 17 Kansas.
Both teams started without their point guards. Kansas State freshman Nijel Pack, the team’s leading scorer, sat out with an eye infection, and the Wildcats were unable to make up for his floor presence.
“We don’t have ballhandlers and passers. I think he’s one of the leaders in the league in assist to turnovers ratio,” Webber said. “He’s one of the ones who can make big shots and he’s good at that.”
West Virginia's Miles McBride was banged up in practice and missed the first eight minutes of Saturday’s game. He was held to five points.
With McBride limited and teammates Derek Culver and Jalen Bridges getting into early foul trouble, West Virginia was sluggish in the first half. Davion Bradford took advantage of Culver’s absence with seven first-half points and the Wildcats trailed 26-22 at halftime.
West Virginia scored the first seven points of the second half. Jordan McCabe, who started the game in place of leading scorer Miles McBride, then scored all seven of his points during a 17-0 run that gave the Mountaineers their largest lead, 59-34, with 5:14 remaining.
“I thought the second half we played pretty well. We were pretty efficient,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “The first half was a miserable half for both teams.”
In the teams’ last meeting Jan. 23, Kansas State committed 28 turnovers and lost 69-47 in Manhattan, Kansas. The Wildcats committed 18 turnovers on Saturday, leading to 23 points for West Virginia.
Culver added 11 points for West Virginia.
Bradford finished with 11 points, and Mike McGuirl had 10 for Kansas State (7-19, 3-14). The Wildcats were held to their second-lowest points total of the season.
Kansas State: The Wildcats saw a two-game winning streak snapped. They were coming off a 62-57 win Tuesday over No. 7 Oklahoma, but couldn’t pull off a second upset of a Top 25 team this season.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers got off to a good start as part of a four-game home blitz over eight days to finish the regular season.
“That’s huge, for us especially,” McNeil said. “Mostly every time we travel, we’ve got anywhere from a two- to three-hour flight. We love playing at home in front of these fans, so we can get some confidence going into the Big 12 tournament.”
FREE THROW IMPROVEMENT
One game after making just 58% of its free throws in a win over TCU, West Virginia went 15 of 17 (88%) against Kansas State.
CLOSING IN ON 900
Huggins earned his 898th career win, just behind North Carolina’s Roy Williams. Both could reach Bob Knight's 902 victories this season.
West Virginia should take another step up after several teams ranked higher lost in the past week.
Kansas State: At Iowa State next Saturday.
West Virginia: Hosts No. 2 Baylor on Tuesday night.